Four recommendations for effectively managing a global communications strategy

As global competition increases, multinational companies must change how they manage and alter their organizational structures accordingly. The ultimate goal is to enhance their current position to take advantage of opportunities existing in the global marketplace. Whether your company is already multinational, or you are domestic company looking into foreign expansion, there are many strategic decisions involved with planning, implementing and maintaining appropriate business processes. For instance, will you use a standardized or adapted marketing approach, expand in a concentrated vs. dispersed manner, or have integrated vs. independent operations? It makes no difference what industry you are involved with or the size of your organization. Marketers must fully understand the nature of competition, planning requirements and market-entry options from a global perspective.

Here are our four recommendations to both ease your anxiety, and effectively communicate your organization’s vision globally.

Recommendation #1: Clarify what is driven globally and what is managed locally

A global marketing approach does not mean the absence of local, market-specific plans and initiatives. These should, in fact, be complementary.

Global marketing will typically set the framework and parameters within which local marketing operates, whilst giving in-market teams the freedom to control local success levers.

Some areas of marketing that lend themselves to being led at a global or central level include branding and brand guidelines, strategic marketing planning and budgeting (with autonomy given to markets within their allocated budget), large-scale marketing campaigns, social media strategy and guidelines, research strategy, and global PR.

Other areas best managed locally include local outreach initiatives and more tactical campaigns, local social media channels and PR initiatives, local partnerships and events, etc. Markets need to have some control over the local channels that contribute to driving their success.

In practice, it might be useful to divide your markets into tiers.

A tiered market will help you identify territories that might drive the highest potential returns. It also allows top tier markets to access bigger budgets, giving them autonomy; for example, research into local users’ behaviors to inform product development.

Global and local areas of ownership may differ from company to company. However, it is critical you define the areas clearly to avoid friction and inefficiencies.  Take the time to do this upfront - don’t wait until issues start arising.

Recommendation #2: Understand local market needs and develop a collaborative approach

Too often, operating globally is seen as an excuse to avoid spending time understanding local cultures, customer needs and behaviors, as well as successful and less successful marketing approaches.

And yet, it is obvious that a US-based customer is likely to be very different from a customer located in India or SEA. Their lives, cultures, and needs are different, so it makes sense they will interact very differently with your products or services.

For a global model to work, global teams need to develop an understanding of local markets and establish a close relationship with local marketing teams.

Gone are the days when global campaigns and strategies were applied in a blanket fashion across all international territories - it simply doesn’t work.

Globally defined initiatives and plans need to factor in a degree of flexibility to cater for cultural differences. A community meet-up, social media competition, or treasure-hunt based campaign might resonate well with some markets, and not at all with others. Celebrity endorsement or participation will only work with … well, actual celebrities. And an Indian celebrity is unlikely to be known in France or Japan.  Privacy laws can be very different from country to country too.

Recommendation #3: Make sure you track and adjust in real time

Running a campaign in multiple markets means you will have to be particularly disciplined about tracking results.  The campaign manager is a good person to coordinate this.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Define key metrics and goals at the start of the campaign at both global and market level (clicks, click-through rate%, conversion rate, average customer spend, etc.)

  • Get buy-in from in-market teams on these targets.  Share these metrics early and share them all.  Seeing how each market contributes to the overall success of the campaign might help drive a bit of healthy competition!

  • Keep a centralized shared template where market metrics are updated every week/day/any other relevant frequency

  • Review metrics weekly with the team, preferably on a call or video call, and take actions to address under-performance. These discussions should be active and vibrant, allowing all local teams to chip in and contribute. This is also a good opportunity to leverage best practice across markets.

Recommendation #4: Over-communicate

Effective communication is important at all times, not only when running campaigns.

Being in a global marketing role inevitably means you will be working with colleagues around the globe; most of whom will be sitting thousands of miles away from you.  In these circumstances it’s easy to feel disconnected.  And, if you are disconnected, so is your strategy, plans and activities.

A critical element that makes global marketing work is the relationship you establish with in-market teams.  An open communication channel is vital in developing trust and nurturing these relationships. Regular (video) calls are a great way to keep the teams up-to-date with the latest global plans and changes, as well as to learn about the latest competitive developments in-market, or to discuss new campaign ideas.

Time-zones will make this a challenge, but it can work, and it will pay off.  Creating cohesion in the team will go a long way in driving your joined success.